On 11 Mar 1915 HMS Bayano was torpedoed by U27 off the Firth of Clyde.
The Bayano was an Elders & Fyffes merchant ship launched in 1913. She was requisitioned on the 21st of November 1914 and became HMS Bayano, Pendant No M78, an armed merchant cruiser. She displaced 5948 tons, carried 2 x 6 inch guns, and had a maximum speed of 14 knots.
Just after 0500 hrs on 11 March 1915, Kapitanleutnant Bernd Wegener in U27 was positioned a few miles off Corsewall Point at the entrance to Loch Ryan, where the ferries from Cairnryan to Belfast and Larne now pass several times daily.
HMS Bayano was steaming fast out of the Firth of Clyde heading south for Liverpool after taking on coal in Glasgow. Wegener spotted Bayano and manoeuvred himself into an attack position. U27 fired a torpedo which hit Bayano causing her to sink rapidly taking down 194 of the 220 man crew. Some survivors were picked up around 4 hours later by the Balmarino a vessel operated by Kelly’s Colliers of Belfast. The Castlereagh, another vessel operated by Kelly’s, reported siting the wreckage and being pursued by a submarine, possibly U27, for some time around dawn the following morning.
Bodies began to wash up on the East Coast of the Ards Peninsula between Ballyquintin Point near Portaferry and Cloughey. Four of the men were collected by a lorry operated by Messrs Elliot merchants of Portaferry and taken to Ballyphilip Parish Church. The oval shaped war grave headstones can be found for Royal Marine A G Bain of Portsmouth, Seaman W A Wellstead of Lydd in Kent and two unidentified sailors. Other men are buried in cemeteries in Whitechurch outside Ballywalter, and St Andrews Balleysborough near Ballyhalbert.
There were at least ten Irish sailors lost on HMS Bayano. Ulster men who perished were:
Mercantile Marine Reservist Fireman John Alexander McQuigg from Derry, who died aged 26 years old and is remembered at Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Royal Naval Reservist Seaman John Todd from Belfast who died aged 35 years old and is remembered at Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
Royal Naval Volunteer Reservist Ordinary Seaman Patrick Worke from Belfast who is remembered at Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
Research by Karen O’Rawe, Chair and Mark McCrea, Member History Hub Ulster
History Hub Ulster is a research group based in Belfast, but working on projects across Ulster.